Saturday 18 August 2018

Stone blowing, part II

We had a record (well for the current season) turnout of 15 today, what a jolly party it was. Old friends dropped in, and new ones were made.

We were surprised at Winchcombe this morning by this pretty little freight train.

Not everything copper capped is Great Western.

The absence of doughnuts this morning (how did that happen? Stevie was most disappointed) was counter balanced by the news that our department had been awarded a modest budget to try and acquire a second Landie, one with a longer wheelbase. This is great news, it will help us do two jobs at once, and also enable us to transport sleepers around. The deck of our current Landie is very short, and that is further constricted by the little crane it has. So not much room up there.
Now to try and source a good one that fits our budget. Watch this space!.

Here is our valiant little Landie as we all know it well.

We loaded it up this morning with the kit for stone blowing, and as you can see you couldn't get another postage stamp on it. We need more load space, and something with 4wd that won't spin its wheels in the ballast.

Then out to Manor Lane, where the actual stone blowing, made possible by the cribs we dug out last week, was due to take place today. Not before Nigel and a small team of 3 went to replace a broken fish plate, a deep skirted one too. Maybe a hangover from the mighty King that we had a few weeks back?

Here is our veteran PWay man Steve eyeing in the jacks, which have been placed in the shallow holes we dug under the fish plates last week.

Listening to some people's tales, it seems the very hot weather was quite off putting for some, hence the larger team again now that temperatures have reduced back down to a pleasant 20 degrees.

After lifting the track with the jacks the voids start to appear below the sleepers, and a final detail before stone blowing is to carefully remove any remaining big stones that might be in the way of the jet nozzle.

Our big pacific was out today. The GWSR is the ideal line for it - long and straight, in fact a former main line railway.

Today's red timetable is very handy for our lookouts, as there is a train every hour, at the same time. They cross at Gotherington too, so we have two in quick succession, then peace and quiet for 45 minutes. Stone blowing can proceed without interruption.

Well, until 2807 returns, fully loaded with passengers now, from CRC. Nigel has the flag out to warn the driver to reduce speed. A green one held aloft then tells him when the last carriage has safely passed.

We had our lunch early as we ran out of stone to blow, and three volunteers went to our little yard at Skew Bridge to get some more.
There is a long concrete wall here, believed to be part of an earlier repair to a slip on the Malvern side of the embankment. It makes a handy picnic bench, although some nonetheless bring their own folding chairs.

Cake was very interesting today: lemon, with poppy seeds. We tried it carefully, and soon came back for more! Mrs. B's two cakes were consumed entirely, in fact the last few pieces had to be defended vigorously for the three that had gone to fetch more stone.

Neil is contemplating his tea. Perhaps it has a strange taste, like the tea brought by Mr. Pugh to his wife in Under Milk Wood:

Here's your arsenic, dear.
And your weedkiller biscuit.

But before Neil could put his finger on the exact taste, we had the pleasure of a visit by 4270.

Some of the lifts were quite high, so we used up quite a bit of the larger sized stone that we had delivered erroneously.

We then completed the fill with the regular smaller stone, of which we still had a small supply. Where necessary we completed the stone blowing by some hand tamping with beaters.

The dips should now be eliminated, and the track securely packed underneath, preventing any movement up and down when a train passes over the top.

We all had a good look when this one rolled by. No movement visible, good! Mid afternoon we had run out of stone to blow, more should arrive by next week.
It was rather quicker to dig out the cribs, than to stone blow the 8 voids that are revealed at each joint. There is still quite a bit more to do in the direction of Bishops Cleeve, so we'll be back here next week.

Step construction

Construction of the Broadway footbridge steps has started in earnest. On Monday the supply of channels was cut into approximate lengths, and on Friday the same small team returned to continue with the fabrication.

The roughly cut lengths of channel were each cut precisely and cleanly with this bandsaw.

It's an amazing machine. Your blogger has only ever seem a reciprocating saw in a loco workshop until now, but this modern one has an endless circular blade which whizzes around and makes a quick and very neat cut at any angle that you desire.

As the footbridge steps go up at an angle, and have a platform half way up, the ends have to be cut at precise angles to get the right shape of the stringers when they are assembled.

This is what the stringers should look like, like an elongated 'S'.
These are the original steps from Henley in Arden. They support the treads, as well as the pillars for the canopy over the top of the staircases. Because at HIA the steps stood away from the station canopy, the rain got in at the bottom and the steelwork here was badly decayed. You could put your fingers through the web of the stringers. At Broadway we will have the canopy overhang here, which will keep the bottom of the steps dry.
The steps at the front have had the woodwork removed, whereas at the back it is still in place.
The cast iron HIA columns have been kept but will not be used, as they are too short for the canopy overhang that rested on them at Broadway. New columns will be fabricated in the same style.

As we cut each piece of channel to the right length, Neal constantly checked the angle of the cut, as that will be crucial when they are joined together. The angles are not all the same, so it's quite complicated to keep tabs on them all.

It's a great pleasure to work with someone who is so good with his hands, and wonderfully at ease with this work.

We have a full set of drawings, made up for the manufacture of the new steps and also because they are not identical to the old ones. There is a slight difference in the height for example.

At the end of the day we couldn't resist the temptation to just lay everything out and see if it fitted, and take some pictures.

So here are the 4 stringers, 12 pieces in total. Everything is cut to size, but not yet assembled. You can now see what they are meant to look like, just like the ones in the HIA picture above.

Here's a view from above. John on the right has cut and drilled the cleats that support the treads, all 96 of them. It requires great patience. In the picture on the left a few sample ones have been laid on a stringer to show how they will go. The cleats will be rivetted in place with 2 rivets each, then welded round to ensure that there is no water ingress from behind. We will also have the new steelwork zinc plated, again based on experience where it rusted before.

The last picture today is a shot of the Broadway car park, this time seen from the Childswickham road end. The brown scar against the embankment marks where there was a spoil heap from the Little Buckland bridge repair and this has now been removed, revealing the embankment as it should be. At the same time a much bigger car parking area here has been revealed, and now covered in stone.

One of our trains is just pulling into Broadway above.

Before you go, don't forget to check out our work at Usk on the Heritage blog:

At Winchcombe today work started to clear the ground where the materials recovered from the Usk building will be stored in the first instance, close to where the building will be re-erected.


  1. Footbridge fabrication looking good! Thanks for the pictures of the Henley in Arden bridge. I must admit, I hadn't realized that the sides were wooden - I imagined they were of steel, like a lot of railway footbridges. Is any of the wood reusable, I wonder? I seem to remember the horizontal span had its original wooden planks restored, but perhaps I am wrong? I see the original used 3 rivets per step to hold the brackets in place, but 2 plus a weld is probably perfectly OK!

    1. The design for the replacement steps were produced by a design consultancy this was a fully welded design with dummy rivet heads welded on to the outside faces.We have changed the design to use proper rivets this means we have 600 to install with welds to seal joints to stop water ingress. All the main sections are going to be galvanized to try and stop the rusting problems on the original steps even if they lasted towards 100 years. Some sections from the original woodwork were saved as patterns most were badly rotted.

  2. Just a perhaps pedantic comment about the red timetable making life easy for lookouts. When I took my PTS course, reiterated with PICOP and others, the first safety rule instilled was 'Forget the timetable'. Even on a single line, it's possible the train just passed fails just around the corner, and assistance can come from either direction at any time.